There's no denying that Blue Apron Holdings' (NYSE:APRN) brief tenure as a public company has been tragic, but as Tom Petty used to sing, "even the losers get lucky sometimes." The meal-kit provider announced a deal with Airbnb on Monday through which it will offer global culinary experiences to its customers during a six-week run starting on April 16.
The weekly meal recipes come from international Airbnb Experiences hosts. From Parisian steak in the first week through Kung Pao chicken from Shanghai in the end, Blue Apron customers will be able to cherry-pick from the six international options.
The limited-time offering may not seem like a big deal. Blue Apron stock hit another all-time low on Monday following the news, closing 4% lower on a day when the general market rallied. However, it's a smart move by a company whose miscues have outnumbered its coups.
Cooking up an opportunity
Blue Apron has had a rough rookie year as a publicly traded company. The stock has surrendered more than 80% of its value since going public at $10 last summer. Every quarter seems worse than the one that came before it. The same company that went public shortly after announcing a 42% spike in revenue in the first quarter would go on to post decelerating top-line growth of 18% and 3% in the second and third quarter, respectively. Revenue took a 13% hit in its latest quarter.
The novelty of gourmet meal kits isn't wearing thin in general. The marketplace has simply become crowded as players big and small throw their hats in the ring. It's getting harder for Blue Apron to stand out, as its active customer count has plunged 15% over the past year.
This brings us to the partnership with Airbnb. It's smart for a couple of different reasons. The immediate win is that it draws attention to Blue Apron, highlighting the uniqueness of its weekly offerings. If chicken tinga tostadas from Mexico or a beef and rice bowl from Japan sound appealing, Blue Apron's going to woo some new accounts. Blue Apron is promoting a $60 discount for new customers, cleverly doled out in six price breaks of $10 per order. The average Blue Apron recipient orders a little more than four orders a quarter, so folks all in for the six-week run will help boost that engagement metric.
Airbnb is also an interesting partner. This deal is with Airbnb Experiences, the subsidiary of hosted local experiences that the dot-com darling offers hosted experiences in different cities. It only makes sense that Blue Apron and Airbnb also teamed up to promote the meal kits to folks staying at Airbnb residences. One can argue that traveling is all about getting out to new cities and checking out the local eateries, but Airbnb residences often come with their own kitchens. A meal kit is an affordable alternative to eating out for every meal, and certainly far less expensive than hiring a private chef.
Blue Apron is facing a long road back. It could be a five-bagger from Monday's close and still not be at its IPO price. There's always hope, and the market still hasn't given its recently named CEO a shot. It's not fashionable to be on Blue Apron's side these days, but dismissing this week's smart move as the first of more savvy steps in a long turnaround could be missing out on a tantalizing opportunity for risk-tolerant investors.